Poetry a tradition at North Water Street Gallery

Ben Plassard

Poetry readings, open to all, continue to be held at the North Water Street Gallery. COURTESY OF JEFF INGRAM

Credit: Carl Schierhorn

Ladies and gentlemen, start your pens.

A 24-year tradition of open poetry readings continues at the North Water Street Gallery this Friday.

The open readings are hosted by Kent State poetry professor Maj Ragain and held once a month. The readings are open to all ages and are open to novice and experienced poets.

“Poems are stories, and everyone is trying to tell their story,” Ragain said. “Diversity is an enduring principle with everyone in the mix and every poem an act of generosity. It is all part of an evolving story process.”

Ragain has been teaching poetry part-time at Kent State since 1981 and has been hosting open poetry readings since 1982. The readings began at Brady’s Coffee Shop and lasted until Starbucks moved into the building in 2002. The readings then moved to the gallery on North Water Street. According to Ragain, the venue might have changed, but the structure of the readings remained the same.

“It is an open reading,” Ragain said. “There are no featured readers here. Everyone is featured, and everyone is welcome.”

Participants at the readings sit in a circle and read their poems, which Ragain said is much like the campfire origins of poetry.

Ragain said university professors, students and Kent residents are all regulars of the readings. The ages of those in attendance may span generations, but the message at the readings is the same.

“Poetry is a way of trying to find language for yourself, the private language,” Ragain said. “It’s about finding an understanding of your own poems and people trying to fight for their own personal understandings.”

Those in attendance are not required to share poems. Ragain insisted that all are welcome to come and listen and enjoy. Whatever people decide to do, Ragain said the reading is a soul-searching experience.

“Poetry speaks to what can be said and what can’t be said,” he said. “A poem points you to things and makes you see things you normally wouldn’t see.”

The reading is free and open to all and begins at 8 p.m. at the North Water Street Gallery on 257 North Water St. in downtown Kent.

Contact off campus entertainment reporter Ben Plassard at [email protected].